The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated digitization in the workplace, accentuating the need for technical and vocational training aligned with Africa’s development needs and the young population focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
This was the main takeaway from a webinar hosted by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa on July 8, 2021.
The event, titled Rethinking the Role of Skills Development in Future Work and Lifelong Learning, in Light of Digitization and the 4th Industrial Revolution, was organized with the support of the African Bank development, the World Bank and GIZ. The virtual event attracted over 300 participants from civil society, academic institutions, and development and philanthropic organizations. Panelists and speakers exchanged experiences and offered recommendations.
“The issue of human capital development in Africa is linked to the training of young people,” said Cheikh Oumar Anne, Senegalese Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation. He added that half of the Senegalese population is under the age of 15, and underlined the urgent need for training in scientific and technological skills to prepare them for the job market of today and tomorrow.
The Covid-19 served as the backdrop for the event. In addition to the health and economic effects of the pandemic, it has cost African students up to 26 weeks of learning.
Dr Beth Dunford, vice president of the African Development Bank for Agriculture, Human and Social Development, noted that the pandemic has had various impacts on work, “ranging from job creation, displacement to ‘jobs, widening skills gaps and automation, which is likely to increase inequalities to displace low-skilled workers. “She said:” Covid-19 really highlights the need to increase investments in skills development enabling infrastructure such as Internet connectivity. “
Discussions highlighted the importance of 21st century skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking and analysis. “But we also must not forget about soft skills. To communicate. To persevere. To adapt,” said Dr Rita Bissoonauth of the African Union. Labor markets are changing so rapidly “that 50% of the existing jobs we have today will not exist in the next 15 years,” she added.
Participants split into three groups for a more personalized discussion with three themes: Relevance – Unlocking the potential of the skilled African workforce with the development of relevant technical and professional skills, led by GIZ; Quality – Unleashing the power of educational technology (EdTech) in TVSD, led by the World Bank; and Reaching Vulnerable Groups, led by the African Development Bank.
During these breakout sessions, participants discussed the importance of tailoring the training to the African context; the role of the private sector; and existing solutions such as the Global Skills Academy, a United Nations initiative that engages learners in training by leveraging partnerships with more than 250 vocational training centers in 160 countries.
The webinar ended with a number of recommendations. These included the need to consider solutions that were highly technical, low-tech and without any technical skills for the workers; implement more planning at the national level in partnership with the private sector and retrain TVET trainers to meet the demands of a rapidly changing labor market.
ADEA, a pan-African institution based within the African Development Bank, is a network of policy makers, educators and researchers, and a catalyst for education reform.